One of many conspiracy theories doing the rounds claims the coronavirus pandemic is a cover for Bill Gates' plan to put tracking microchips in all of us.
In January, a Facebook user posted a picture purporting to be the chip Microsoft would put in the COVID19 vaccine. A closer look reveals a circuit diagram, with words like "input" and "foot-switch". It was, in fact, a circuit diagram of a guitar effects pedal. And not just any old pedal. One with a bit of a reputation. The Boss Metal Zone 2, a distortion effect often wildly misused by aspiring guitar gods.
Somewhere, a conspiracy nut googling for "microchip photo" found the inner workings of a guitar effects pedal, pressed "publish", and gave us all a great laugh. And reminded us that guitar effects have been around for almost 100 years, from the "whammy bar" to the fuzz box, overdrive to wah-wah.
Listen to my ABC Radio piece on guitar effects
In the early days, other Motown acts used to call them the "no-hit" Supremes. They were a formidable combination with talent to spare. Yet chart success eluded Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross for almost five years.
Then, one fortunate day, songwriters Lamont Dozier and Brian and Eddie Holland brought them a song. The Supremes hated Where Did Our Love Go. Mary and her colleagues said "it won't be a hit". The song-writers said "trust us". It began a long run of number ones for The Supremes, who became Motown's biggest act and the most successful female group in the world. They were, for a time, bigger than The Beatles.
Mary Wilson has died. She was 76. She sang lead after Diana Ross left the group and stayed with The Supremes to the very end in 1977. Then she had a successful solo career, and wrote one of the best-selling showbiz memoirs ever. Mary was a great talent, a great inspiration, and a really entertaining story-teller.
Listen to my ABC Radio piece on Mary Wilson
It features parts of an interview Mary did with Richard Fidler on ABC Conversations in 2010. Listen to the full interview here.
The KLF. The 80s/90s music enigma that pioneered the dance club scene and delivered a run of massive radio hits. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty mercilessly took the piss out of the British pop establishment, which honoured them in return. At the height of their fame, The KLF disappeared, deleting their entire music catalogue as they "left the building". And there's the curious business of burning one million pounds of fresh banknotes.
Their decision to delete their catalogue meant KLF material has been impossible to get, and hasn't ever been available to download or stream. Until now. On New Year's Eve, The KLF announced a slight return - they're on YouTube and Spotify, making their music available for the first time in the digital age.
Listen to my ABC Radio story on the KLF. All aboard all aboard whoa.
Australia has a proud history of music festivals, stretching back to the very first - the Woodstock inspired Pilgrimage for Pop at Ourimbah, NSW, in 1970. The Odyssey Pop Festival followed in 1971, and then the annual Sunbury festivals from 1972 to 75. Down through the years, we've had Splendour in the Grass, Livid, Homebake, Big Day Out and more.
One of the most important festivals happened 50 years ago at Myponga, in South Australian dairy country. It was a weekend of firsts and big moments - Black Sabbath made their Australian debut, Aussie bands Spectrum and Daddy Cool gave epic breakthrough performances, and we saw Doc Neeson and Bon Scott before the bands in which they found fame.
Listen to my ABC Radio piece on Myponga 71
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.